Top 10 Player Moves of the Offseason
By Paul Bruno
Every year at this time fantasy pool owners begin the process of preparing for their upcoming hockey drafts. One of the first things to consider is the potential impact of some of the top offseason player moves.
The impact of those moves is a key consideration when looking at how these players may perform in their new environments.
We will present our views in reverse order, counting down the top 10 impact player movements of the offseason.
10. Pierre Parenteau, Colorado - The Avalanche have accumulated a number of young offensive talents with some of their most recent top draft picks. Foremost among them are Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny, who give them one of the league's top 1-2 punches when ranking offensive creativity and talent. Last year they added the eventual Calder Trophy winner in left-winger Gabriel Landeskog, who scored 22 goals and 30 assists, giving them three bona fide top-six forwards.
Parenteau joins this mix and seems destined to play on the right wing of the top line after proving himself as high-end producer last year on Long Island, compiling 18 goals and 49 assists while playing alongside John Tavares. His assist total was good for a tie for 11th in the NHL and was third best for all non-centers. Parenteau earned accolades for the way he competed on a nightly basis while facing top checking units. That experience will be similarly tested in Colorado, which arguably has better offensive depth than the Islanders did last year. Parenteau looks like the real deal after two straight solid years with the Islanders and cashed in for a big contract that he is well-positioned to justify in Colorado.
9. Dennis Wideman, Calgary - The Flames were on the outside looking in when the 2012 playoffs began and when their brain trust reviewed the roster, they felt that an upgrade was needed in terms of the offensive skill on the blueline. Sure, they had Mark Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester in the mix, but neither of them reached the 10-goal plateau, despite playing big minutes all season long.
They have turned to Wideman, who was acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals and represented a surplus that the Caps felt they could move. Wideman has emerged, somewhat surprisingly, as a consistent goal-scoring defenseman who has reached the 10-goal mark in four of the last five seasons. He figures to solidify the blueline and enhance the veteran depth on this roster.
8. Mike Ribeiro, Washington - Ribeiro parlayed a great opportunity in Dallas to establish himself as one of the best playmaking pivots in the last six seasons, during which time he has averaged almost 50 assists per season.
Clearly his value would really see a potential spike if he gets the plum assignment of working with Alex Ovechkin, but that assignment has been in the capable hands of Nicklas Backstrom for much of the last few years.
The Caps have to be concerned that Backstrom suffered through an injury-plagued last season and this move may also be viewed as an insurance policy, to ensure that the first line center position has now got two possibilities. At the very least, the Caps have potentially armed themselves with a second solid playmaking pivot and will go a long way toward taking some scoring pressure off the Ovechkin line.
7. Jason Garrison, Vancouver - The Canucks have seen a number of injuries impact a veteran group of defensemen over the last couple of seasons. That group has been together through a few long playoff grinds and was in need of an injection of new talent.
Garrison rose to prominence last season, playing alongside veteran Brian Campbell, to form one of the most potent power play blueline tandems. It really highlighted Garrison' s booming shot and he turned into one of the league's top goal-scoring blueliners with 16 goals, nine of which came on the power play.
In moving over to the Canucks, he joins one of the league's top power play units and will get the chance to be a new feature component on that unit. The Sedin twins have been central to the Canucks power play success, with much of that occurring down low in the offensive zone. Having the booming drive that Garrison brings to the table will create more opportunities and open up the ice for all the Canucks forwards when they press the attack.
6. James van Riemsdyk. Toronto - For a number of years, Brian Burke has identified a glaring need in Toronto, to fill the number one center slot, one that has not been appropriately filled since the departure of Mats Sundin. That's been a big reason why the Leafs have been unsuccessful in reaching the postseason in Burke's tenure as the Leafs' GM. While Burke has improved the top end talent level, adding the likes of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul as top line wingers, a succession of players have failed to adequately fill the center slot.
The opportunity will likely go to van Riemsdyk, whom the Leafs acquired in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn. While JVR has played as a winger since turning pro with the Flyers, he has shown flashes of offensive brilliance, but he's always battled for top-six minutes in the deep offensive mix of the Flyers. The fact remains that was the second overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, following an impressive junior career as a center. He will get the chance to go back to the middle and get a long look in between Toronto's All-Star wingers from last season.
5. Justin Schultz, Edmonton - The Edmonton Oilers have parlayed their recent run of futility into three straight number one draft picks and they have used those selections, among other top choices, to bring in some of the best offensive stars in Junior Hockey. In fact, with the most recent draft being top-heavy in defensemen, there was some speculation that the Oilers would opt to either trade the number one pick or select a top junior defenseman, but they stuck to the form chart and chose Nail Yakupov.
Following the draft, unsigned junior star Justin Schultz became the focus of a league-wide bidding war. The Oilers earned his services by presenting him with the opportunity to play the role of power play quarterback and join forces with the front-line talent. It seems like a great fit as all these young stars will grow and gain experience (hopefully a great chemistry, too) together.
4. Brandon Sutter, Pittsburgh - It's trite to say, but sometimes trades can benefit both trade partners in a deal. Such a transaction seems to have taken place this summer between Carolina and Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have assembled a collection of some of the best offensive talents in the NHL including centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, among others. When it has come to the postseason, this group has been exposed a bit with the fact that they fall a bit short in terms of the close-checking and defensive aspects of the game. That's why Brandon Sutter was such a sought-after piece in this deal.
Sutter has the perfect temperament and skill set to slide into the number three center role with Penguins as he has the typical Sutter makeup of that pesky, strong two way player who will not create any waves or demands to unseat the two top players in Pittsburgh. He can score 15-29 goals, but his value will emerge with the fact that he will be difficult to play against.
3. Jordan Staal, Carolina - Staal was the big piece going to Carolina, a trade that became necessary when he and the Pens could not reach a contract agreement this summer. Clearly Staal was looking for a big payday, but the Pens could never project him as anything more than a third line center on their roster.
During the last two years in Pittsburgh, Staal was thrust into a top-six role from time-to-time because of injuries to Crosby and Malkin. He proved during those cameos among the top two forward lines that he could be an offensive star in his own right. In fact, he has topped the 20-goal mark in four of his six NHL seasons.
In Carolina, he has already been signed to the big contract that he sough, but he will get prime playing time and will likely be paired with his older brother Eric. All the motivating factors are in place to push Jordan Staal to the next level. Carolina fans are anticipating that the Staal brothers will lead the Hurricanes to greater heights.
2. Rick Nash, NY Rangers - Rick Nash has been the subject of much speculation as he was mired in a stagnant situation with the Blue Jackets during much of his tenure there. He tired of the non-playoff years and poor team performances and finally expressed his desire to move on, informing his team management that he wanted out at the trade deadline in February. Bids received at that time did not measure up to club expectations and so a bidding war ensued once again this summer.
Undoubtedly, a cloud would hang over the Blue Jackets this season if this did not get resolved over the summer. The Rangers came up with the best offer and so now Nash finally joins a team that has some other big names (Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist) on the roster. Nash will shed the mantel of big fish in a small pond, but now will feel the added pressure of high expectations, as he moves to a perennial contending team, on Broadway, no less.
1. Ryan Suter/Zach Parise - Minnesota - The biggest offseason impact transaction includes two players who joined forces to orchestrate their signing with the same team. The surprise element on the surface of their move to Minnesota is the fact that the Wild are not among the league's marquee franchises, but the fact is that both players have personal ties to that part of the USA. Both players signed huge long-term deals that changed the league-wide perception of NHL fans that this was destined to be a small market (relatively-speaking) franchise.
Ryan Suter moves in as the new lynchpin on defense, the new leader of a defensive unit that is more well-known for protecting the defensive zone than for offensive contributions. Suter will be that two way cog that every great team needs on the blueline.
For his part, Zach Parise goes back to the city where he was born and raised. He immediately becomes the club's signature offensive player, but his presence will remind fans that Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley, two fine offensive players in their own right, are ready to join forces and form a very potent first line here.
At the very least, both players elevate the club from its former profile as a defense-first, low-scoring club. Wild fans have high hope that Parise and Suter will put Minnesota at the forefront of the NHL map this season.
Fantasy pool players need to measure the impact of these moves just as we have tried to do here. Getting an accurate assessment of them could provide a key early advantage if you get it right.